Isn’t it great when stuff just happens, without you having to think about it? Your monthly beer subscription turns up. Your photos get backed up to iCloud, or Google Drive. Netflix goes onto the next episode (and you resurface 8 hours later realising you’ve watched an entire series of Queer Eye). There’s power in automation – it adds value to your life by making an experience seamless.
Bringing automation into sales and marketing has the same affect – not only does it provide value to your customers by making their experience seamless, it makes life easier for you too. Let’s explore marketing automation and how it can help you supercharge your sales funnel and convert more customers.
What is marketing automation?
Broadly, “marketing automation” refers to all the platforms, tools and technologies that enable you to organise, deliver, track, measure and – you guessed it – automate marketing activity across various channels. A marketing automation platform usually has a mechanism for delivering activity – such as email, and tools surrounding that central delivery mechanism to help you store contact details and monitor their activity. You can then create and run automated processes based on the activity of your contacts. We’ll get to that part in a bit.
Some examples of marketing automation platforms you might have heard of include HubSpot, Marketo, ActiveCampaign, Eloqua, SendinBlue, Drip.. I could go on. They vary greatly in price and user experience, but are usually pretty consistent in terms of features they offer. The “bigger” tools like HubSpot and Marketo are usually aiming to be a bit of a one-stop-shop for sales and marketing management – so will bring in other elements like content management, CRM, live chat, and more fancy bells and whistles. But in terms of the bare bones marketing automation functionality we’re interested, they’re all much of a muchness.
How does marketing automation work?
To put it simply, and to paraphrase myself, marketing automation enables you to deliver marketing activity in response to the activity of your contacts, visitors, subscribers (whatever you feel like calling them).
So, what does this mean in practice? Marketing automation is driven by workflows – you might be familiar with those from other platforms like CRM, ERP, and all the other initialisms. You create a set of rules, or conditions, that you want contacts to meet, and when they meet those conditions, they enter your automation, and some stuff happens. What kind of stuff? Let’s get into it.
In some industries (usually B2C), it’s not uncommon for a visitors to land on your website, having never heard of you before, and within a short time become a customer. But that’s not going to happen for everyone’s product or service, especially in B2B, and I’m sure you’re very aware that leads usually need warming up before they’re ready to buy. Nurture programs help you do just that. They’re a way to warm a contact up who has shown some interest through a predetermined program of marketing activity, usually until they meet the criteria of “marketing qualified”, meaning they’re ready to be qualified by sales. Once again, I turn to past Charli to help you out here – this post goes into detail on what they are and what they do, and it even includes an example of a nurture program drawn out as a workflow.
Another useful application of automations in marketing is lead scoring. You can read more detail here (thanks again, past Charli), but to put it simply, lead scoring is the process of assigning point values to activities that you perceive to signal intent or interest (opening emails, clicking links, viewing web pages, filling in forms), and then using a workflow to apply these points to a contact each time they undertake this activity. You’ll then usually set a threshold, and once the contacts reach that threshold, they become marketing qualified. This enables you to better signal to sales who’s hot to trot and absolutely ready for them to get in touch for a more in-depth conversation.
Internal processes and transactional emails
You can do some really cool stuff with automations, as mentioned above, but they’re also great for doing really basic things that you might otherwise forget to do, or would be a pain to do at scale. For example, as mentioned above, you might want to alert your sales and marketing team the very second a lead goes over a particular score, to make sure they’re hot on the trail – you can use an automation to do that! You might also want to put a holding email into someone who’s filled in a form on your site, to let them know you’ll be in touch soon – you can use an automation to do that! Or you might want to add a tag to a contact, or add them to a list, based on which product or service they’ve shown interest in – you can…you get the point.
Another handy application of marketing automation, in a similar vein to nurture programmes, is to keep a customer engaged over the duration of your relationship with them – so they’re more likely to become a repeat customer. Particularly handy if you’re service or product is subscription based, you can use an automation to send customers reminder or “check-in” messages, maybe guiding them as to how they can get the most value of your product, or reminding them when it’s time to renew. If you set up all this activity in advance, it’s dead easy to just let it run on it’s own, and it can really make a difference to your customers. It’s how you take the customer experience from being pretty good to being awesome.
How does it help me?
Marketing automation helps you supercharge your sales funnel in two ways – it delivers additional value to your contacts that makes them more likely to convert, and it helps you to better identify and qualify who’s engaged and who isn’t before they are pushed over to sales to further qualify. That means better conversion rates, more quality conversations and better customer retention. And the best part is, if you put in the work up front and plan carefully, it all just happens for you, behind the scenes.
If it’s sounding like marketing automation could be the answer to sales and marketing prayers, but you don’t feel confident going it alone, get in touch. We help a variety of clients get more high quality leads with marketing automation driven by world-class campaigns and activity. Find out how we could help you streamline your sales and marketing processes and deliver more value to customers and prospects.